Seven of Nine stared at her regeneration alcove with suspicion.
Under normal circumstances, and if she were a normal human being – if such a thing existed – then it would have been called a bed, and her regeneration cycle would have been called sleep. Yet while she may have begun life as a human being, and technically still was one, her time as a cyberneticly enhanced drone amongst the Borg Collective meant that she was different. As such, sleep wasn’t sleep and her bed was a vertical platform resting against a wall of computer systems. Still, to her it was normal.
What was resting on the floor of her regeneration alcove, however, wasn’t.
She studied it at a distance for a moment, scanning it with eyes which were more highly advanced than natural evolution would have allowed. It seemed, Seven thought, innocuous enough but its presence was unexpected and, as such, unwelcome. This was her private place on board the USS Voyager, and as such it was a violation. Having determined that the item appeared harmless, she picked it up and turned it at several angles, attempting to understand its purpose.
After a minute of this, she quickly tapped her communicator badge and said, “Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway. I suggest that you go to red alert. Voyager is being invaded…”
The holographic doctor, a representation of a male human being whom everyone simply called the Doctor, busied himself in Sickbay arranging hypo-sprays as he hummed a tune from one of the operas he enjoyed. He was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice Seven as she entered the room.
She had come to appreciate his company, and had thought on occasion that it may have been due to their similarities in being removed from humanity despite their appearances. His constantly-evolving programming made him an intelligent companion to converse with, and she had found him to be of great assistance over the years she had known him. She studied him as he went about his task, and she noted that the Doctor’s voice was far from unpleasant – regardless of the opinions that certain other crewmembers expressed.
Seven wondered about the best way to signal the Doctor’s attention, understanding that it might be impolite to disturb him mid-song. Regardless, she coughed loudly in a feigned attempt at politeness which she had been attempting to master.
Almost instantly his humming ceased and he turned to her in surprise. “Oh, Seven, I didn’t see you come in. Is anything wrong?” he asked with genuine concern.
“I wished to engage you in conversation,” Seven replied, her tone of voice as businesslike as usual. “While I did not wish to interrupt your reveries, coughing seemed an appropriate way to do so.”
The Doctor smiled charmingly and said, “That’s a relief. For a moment there I thought you might be coming down with something. It is Hesperan thumping cough season, after all.”
“As you well know, Doctor,” Seven stated flatly, “the Borg nanoprobes within my bloodstream are more than capable of resisting such an infection. That song you were humming, it is unfamiliar to me. What was it?”
“Che gelida manina, by Puccini,” The Doctor answered excitedly. He was always excited when anyone asked him about opera. “It’s from the opera La Bohème. I’m sorry that I was so preoccupied. So, how goes your little mystery? I heard about the trouble you had, although the details were sketchy. I can imagine it must be an inconvenience for you while Lieutenant Tuvok conducts his investigation.”
“On the contrary,” Seven countered. “While I believe I could have conducted the investigation adequately myself, I have learned to allow others to do the jobs they were assigned to. In that regard, the Borg and Starfleet share the concept of teamwork using, as I believe the term would be, the right tool for the right job. As for your opera, I found it rather… charming.”
The Doctor brightened a little more at the compliment.
“Why, thank you Seven,” he replied graciously. “It’s a wonderful opera that tells the tale of a -”
“However,” Seven cut him off tersely, “I do not wish to know the story of it right now.”
The Doctor’s mood seemed to deflate a little at this. “I see,” he said. “Well, perhaps some other time then. What’s the problem?”
Seven looked at him seriously. “I desire your opinion on what happened. Captain Janeway told me that I was overreacting about it, and I am convinced that I overheard Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris… sniggering.”
The Doctor sighed. He had prided himself on helping Seven to adapt to her new life aboard the USS Voyager away from the Borg, and despite some bumpy experiences she’d had with the crew, she had repeatedly proven both her value and her increasing humanity. With what would have amounted to a sense of ego, he believed that some of Seven’s successes were in some part owed to him.
“Seven, you know that I’m always here for you and happy to help in any way I can,” he said. Ever the gentleman, he pulled out a chair for her and she sat down. He took a seat next to her and continued, “Perhaps going to red alert was an overreaction, although that doesn’t excuse the more juvenile reactions of the Paris and Kim double-act. I’m sorry, I know that this really isn’t a source of amusement.”
Seven frowned and replied in a clipped tone, “Exactly. It appears that the only people who understand this are you, I and Lieutenant Tuvok. To the rest of the crew this seems to be a cause for mirth at my expense.”
“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “The human capacity for inappropriate humour never fails to mystify me.”
Seven nodded slightly. “Indeed. For someone to break in to what essentially amounts to my quarters is one thing. While the proof of their deeds being left in my regeneration alcove shall serve as evidence against them, it is still a violation.”
“I’m still uncertain as to what happened,” the Doctor said. “You know how it is, nobody ever comes here and tells me anything. What evidence did they leave behind?”
“It was a box, covered in a gold foil paper and with a bow on top of it. Captain Janeway described it as a gift. A Christmas present, to be precise.”
There was an awkward silence in sickbay as the Doctor tried to understand what the problem there was. “I see,” the Doctor said finally, and then hesitated as he thought about it some more. Then he added, “Actually, no I don’t. No offence, but why would someone leave you a Christmas present?”
“It is my understanding,” Seven explained, “that on Earth around this time, the seasonal holiday festival of Christmas is approaching. Lieutenant Tuvok and the Captain both believe that it was left by what they called a secret Santa. However, why someone would consider including me in this tradition is questionable. Christmas is supposed to be… jolly. For me to be a part of this seems incongruous.”
The Doctor weighed up her statement for a moment before saying, “Well, I imagine that it was meant to be personal. That being said, I see your point. I doubt that even a great writer like Charles Dickens would have found a former Borg to be very Christmas-like.”
“Charles Dickens?” Seven asked thoughtfully. “I remember his name. The author of A Christmas Carol. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit Ebenezer Scrooge and convince him to change his miserly ways.”
The holographic Doctor looked at her, impressed. “That’s right. I had no idea that you were so well-versed in the classics, Seven.”
“I read it on Stardate 51781.3, upon your own recommendation,” she pointed out. “That was a problematic time for me.”
“Oh yes. That was around the time when the ship received its Omega Directive alert, wasn’t it?” asked the Doctor. “I had some personal issues with that mission, as did you.”
“Hardly,” Seven countered. “The mission was troublesome, but I believe that I acted appropriately given the stressful conditions. However, after evaluating my own performance throughout that time of duty, I realised that I made a grave error. The morning of the alert, I claimed that it was Stardate 15781.2 instead of 51781.2.”
“How embarrassing for you,” the Doctor commented, rolling his eyes. Sometimes her determination in achieving perfection was more than even he could tolerate.
“Indeed. I still find that most disconcerting,” Seven responded, missing his sarcasm.
“We all make mistakes, Seven.”
She stared at the Doctor critically, unimpressed by his simplistic opinion of her error. “So I have been led to believe. The idea of A Christmas Carol being an Earth classic is clearly one of those mistakes.”
“The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future – two of whom were also supposedly time-travellers – were obviously little more than hallucinations brought on by Scrooge’s physical condition,” Seven explained. “As the story clearly states, Scrooge was old, most likely malnourished due to his limited diet and probably suffering from hypothermia. The medical possibility of Scrooge’s visitations being a figment of his fevered imagination is a far more rational scenario. As a doctor, you must be aware of that.”
“That’s a possibility, of course,” the Doctor conceded. “However, I think you missed the point. This may not sound particularly scientific, but not everything can be explained, and sometimes that’s a good thing. The ghosts, and I believe they were ghosts, made him see that there was a better way to live if he changed his ways. You’re living proof of that if anyone is.”
“Perhaps,” she admitted. “But I am not a character in a story by Charles Dickens. No time-travelling apparitions came to my rescue.”
“Yes, that’s true,” the Doctor agreed, and rose slowly from his chair. He then added wryly, “At least now you’re safely just talking to me, a photonic light-based projection. Did I ever tell you how I acquired my 29th century holo-emitter after travelling back in time to 1996?”
Seven sighed with exasperation. “You are talking in semantics, Doctor. You are a product of science. Your travels in time were as a result of science. You are not a ghost. And despite my own experiences and this… gift… I feel that Christmas is an obscure and irrelevant concept.”
“That may be so,” the Doctor said, “but it’s my understanding that it’s better to give than to receive at Christmas. You’re treating this like it’s a crime, Seven, and I can appreciate why. But perhaps it may be best to view it in the spirit with which it was meant.
“After all,” he added, “if someone’s trying to include you in their Christmas tradition, then surely that’s just further proof of how the rest of the crew has come to accept you? In fact, thinking about it, I’m finding the idea of a secret Santa rather charming.”
“Then you are welcome to the evidence which I retrieved from my alcove,” Seven replied.
“That wasn’t evidence, Seven,” the Doctor corrected her. “It was a Christmas present. Clearly Santa – secret or otherwise – believes that you’ve been nice and not naughty this year.”
“From all I have read on the subject, I believe there is no Santa Claus,” Seven said bluntly. “There will be no secret behind my secret Santa either. I am scheduled to meet with Lieutenant Tuvok shortly, and the identity of the culprit will be revealed.”
“As you say,” the Doctor said with a shrug. “Although, personally, I feel that you should just accept it for what it is and be thankful. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.”
Seven strode into the cargo bay which had been outfitted to her specifications and which served as her quarters. Lieutenant Tuvok, Voyager’s Vulcan head of security, was waiting for her and analysing information on a PADD he was holding. His fingers darted across it with his usual efficiency, and he raised a quizzical eyebrow as he looked at the data on the screen.
Ignoring the usual small-talk which both of them despised, Seven simply asked, “How is the investigation proceeding?”
“I am afraid,” he replied, the words seemingly distasteful as he spoke them, “that it isn’t. There appears to be no answer to this mystery.”
Seven stared at Tuvok with disbelief. “That is impossible. The evidence should have contained some sort of clue. Fingerprints, DNA, bio-resonance signatures, something that could lead you to the person responsible.”
“There were no identifying physical clues of any sort. I have conducted a series of tests, and all have come back negative,” Tuvok said. “This is quite a conundrum.”
“Then I suggest you check the access records for the door to this room,” Seven suggested. “The culprit needed to gain entry, and knowing the specific time when it happened should help narrow down the suspects.”
Tuvok stared at her impassively. “I am aware of how to conduct an investigation, Seven. I have thoroughly checked computer records and all internal sensor logs. The door to this cargo bay was not accessed between the time you left for your shift in Astrometrics and your return. None of the Jefferies tubes or other maintenance conduits were accessed either.
“I also studied the possibility of someone using a site-to-site transport and beaming the gift into your alcove,” Tuvok continued, “yet all transporter records show no activity either. I must confess to being perplexed by the skills your secret Santa possesses.”
“Clearly the records were altered,” Seven said simply.
“I have considered that possibility,” Tuvok admitted. “However, no signs of tampering appear in any way with any of the records. Normally, even the most skilled saboteur leaves some small trace of evidence behind in one form or another. As they say, everyone makes mistakes.”
Seven’s expression was grim. “So I am aware. Have you learned anything at all that is helpful to the investigation?” she asked with irritation.
“Actually,” Tuvok replied, “I have questioned members of the crew, the ones whom I believe would be considered the usual suspects. The Captain herself was on the bridge, as was Commander Chakotay. The Doctor was administering vaccinations to the crew, with the assistance of Lieutenant Paris. Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres were both in the mess hall with Mister Neelix.”
He paused before adding, “Apparently he was experimenting with some new recipes.”
“I pity them,” Seven said with a slight shudder.
“As do I.” Tuvok agreed. “While his culinary talents have improved over the years, I still fear that his cooking poses a significant hazard to the crew of this vessel.”
Seven, despite wishing to appear unemotional, could barely contain a smirk at his comment. “Are you attempting to be humourous?”
“I wish I were,” Tuvok said seriously, and then continued. “Returning to the matter at hand, when I questioned Naomi Wildman about Christmas presents she said that all she wanted was her two front teeth. I can only assume that she was making light of the situation, since her dental condition appears perfectly adequate. However, her movements at the time are also accounted for.”
“Have you considered questioning the entire crew of the ship?” Seven asked.
“I have,” he replied, “although the Captain disapproves of such heavy-handed tactics. Instead I ran checks, firstly on all humans aboard, those most likely to celebrate Christmas. Computer records show them all accounted for. I then expanded my search to the rest of the crew, but again it revealed nothing.”
“This is most frustrating,” Seven said.
“That is my opinion also,” Tuvok agreed. “I am uncertain as to how to proceed with this investigation. All I can suggest is that perhaps, in time, whoever did this shall reveal their identity to you. Until then, it shall most likely remain a mystery.”
With a slight shrug, Seven said, “The Doctor told me that some mysteries are best left unsolved.”
“No doubt that is an aspect stemming from his human programming,” Tuvok said. “It is a common attitude, especially around seasonal holidays which rely on emotional sentiment.”
“Really?” Seven asked.
Tuvok nodded and explained, “My earliest years spent amongst human beings were not what I would consider pleasant. I found human beings to be arrogant, aggressive and highly illogical, especially around their holidays. They can be easily swayed by sentiment, willing to accept the flimsiest of premises on nothing but faith.
“Upon returning to Vulcan,” he continued, “I had time to reflect on all that I had experienced. While my initial opinions of humans did not change much, I came to understand their thinking better. The concept of Christmas, however illogical and based on emotion, is also a highly positive one. The idea of a time spent spreading peace and goodwill is something to be commended, regardless of the source or reasoning behind it.”
“Put that way it sounds almost Vulcan,” Seven commented.
“I suppose that in some ways it is. I cannot confess to understanding it properly,” Tuvok said, “but it does have its merits. In some ways, it is also a mystery I shall never be able to solve. Yet since it exists, I have learned to accept it. As, perhaps, you should accept your gift.”
“Perhaps I should,” Seven said, conceding the point. “Where is it now?”
The Vulcan pointed at her alcove and said, “After running thorough scans on it, I re-packaged it and placed it back where it originally was. I believed that, since it is a Christmas present intended for you, it was the logical thing to do.”
Seven walked up to her alcove and picked the gift up again. She stared at it for moment and then turned to Tuvok.
“I am surprised,” Seven said, “that in mentioning your investigation you did not include yourself as a suspect. You are a friend. Since you had access to all of the evidence, you could have easily erased any clues you left behind.”
“I understand your theory,” Tuvok admitted, “however, it is illogical and highly unlikely since I do not celebrate Christmas.”
“True, although it is better to give than to receive. Very well,” Seven said, and turned her attention back to the present. “It is an unexplainable problem, and so it requires an unexplainable solution. Perhaps my secret Santa was Santa himself, and he does indeed exist. It seems to be the only answer which fits, however fantastical it may seem, and I shall accept that.”
“While your answer is one which I cannot validate, I cannot fault your logic in reaching that conclusion,” Tuvok said. He looked at Seven, who placed the Christmas present down on the floor next to her alcove. Raising an eyebrow again, he asked, “Will you not be opening your gift, Seven? Are you not curious as to what it is?”
“I am and I will,” Seven confirmed, as a slight smile rose on her lips. “Yet I believe I shall leave it until Christmas Day. Some mysteries are best left unsolved… until the right time.”